Direct democracy; direct responsibility

Stop blaming the politicians!, WE are the problem, not the politicians.

Saying things like; “You can not trust the politicians”, “they lie”, “they do not keep their promises”, “they are controlled by the leaders of big business, the rich, the leaders of big unions, aggressive activists and all sorts of pressure groups and lobbies”, “they are not interested in the little guy”, “they promise this and that just to get our vote but they forget about us until the next electoral campaign”, and on and on.

All that might make us feel like you are doing something, but we are not. I can understand it, but the root problem is not the politicians, or even the lobbies, the root problem is us, the voters.

The problem is that we give politicians too much power. I am not referring to the politician as a person but to the role and responsibility of being a politicians. No matter whom we elect, no matter who runs the government; local, regional or national, the end result is roughly the same; governments too often do not govern for the people; they govern for some of the people.

It does not matter much either if the country is a presidential republic, a parliamentary monarchy or some other form of legitimate democracy; politicians, public decision makers have too much power to make decisions that affect all of us.

Those we elect can no really do anything about this. It is not that they are bad people or that they enjoy being dominated by the lobbies or their own party apparatus; it is that representative democracy puts too much power in the hands of those elected. In many countries to get elected you need to run expensive campaigns; you need money, lots of it.

You also need the support of lobbies. This is so because some influential lobbies can torpedo your candidacy by “defunding” your campaign, or by running a campaign against you. They may do that if you oppose what they support or if you support what they oppose.

In some democracies, the state gives money to politicians to campaign. This makes politicians less susceptible to the lobbies, but the lobbies still have lots of influence. This is so because politicians know that once they retire from politics, or if they lose and election, the lobbies can offer them, as a reward for how they behaved, good jobs in corporations and institutions in which their vote counts.

Because of those factors, in representative democracy various groups “screen” who is going to be a candidate and, therefore, who gets elected.

Representative democracy also subjects those elected to the pressures of groups and business after the politician has been elected. This happens because those agents want to make sure he or she will not forget their interests.

Elected politicians also know that, once elected, the campaign for reelection begins right away. the pressure does not let up.

Another important problem in representative democracy is that the political parties have too much power. For example, they often directly decide who will be candidate.

The overall effect is government which is not for the people (sometimes is even against the interests of the majority). Trust in politicians also drops every year. Over the long term such dynamics shake democracy to its foundations and may even destroy it.

However, once power shifts from politicians and parties to the people other things happen also. For example, it is no longer so important what politicians and lobbies want to do. This is so because the people can stop anything representative politicians want to do.

When politicians have less power the lobbies also lose some interest in politicians. They are more likely to keep quiet or they decide to to make their case in the open, to all voters.

The things that happen in representative democracy, that we do not like, do so because we consider ourselves democrats, but we have not been willing to act to change the facts on the ground. We are not democrats as long as we do not insist democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. So far the only modern people who have done so are the Swiss, never mind what many beautiful speeches and constitutions say.

If you believe the government in your country is not “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, who is supposed to insist, pressure, protest until it is? It is you! It is irrational to expect the elected politicians to fix this.

Even if a politician wants to increase the power of the people, many of his colleagues, his own party, the lobbies and most of the elite, will do all they can to stop him or her. The reason is clear; none of them likes to lose power. Power is money, is prestige, is social standing, is ego, is sexy.

Politicians themselves also want to have power for other reasons; to do what they believe is right for the country, for example.

You also often hear politicians and others speak of the importance of “leadership”. Some people believe leadership; that “great special people” are necessary. Democracy, even representative democracy is not about that. Democracy is about ordinary people deciding who among them, mere mortals, seems best suited to govern.

Because politicians have power and feel they need it, they will no give it up, in whole or in part, easily. Besides feeling they need the power, it very human to enjoy the sensation of having power power, of having control; it feels good to know you are powerful.

Therefore, it is obvious that it is us, the people, who have to demand the power shift; we need politicians with less power and the citizens with more.

For such demand to happen, much more than just saying “this or that is not right and should be changed” is necessary.

History proves it; representative democracy did not happen because the kings, the priests and other “special” people, came to the conclusion it was a better system than their absolute power. Representative democracy has been a huge leap forward for human kind (still for a minority) but we had to fight, sometimes violently, to get it.

Fortunately, direct democracy is not as dramatic a switch as the switch from absolute rule to representative democracy; it should be possible to do it peacefully. We are not talking about eliminating the politicians or their jobs; we just want to lighten their job specs.

To have “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, all you need is “government by the people”, the other two will happen automatically.

Direct democracy means that the people, in an orderly and organized manner, after receiving information on all sides of an issue, not after listening to politicians, they go to the voting station, vote and decide how the village, city or country is to be run.

Direct democracy is about voting on issues, not just voting politicians. Because of that, one positive affect is that it depoliticizes politics; this is a big improvement.

In direct democracy, voters are the final authority on any law, on the constitution. Voters can also also propose new laws to their fellow citizens and have them decide.

In direct democracy the people are the final authority; not parliaments, not judges, not supreme courts, not constitutional courts. The final authority is you.

Direct democracy also makes citizens grow. This is so because it gives them the responsibility to decide on issues. In direct democracy you vote, you decide and you live with the consequences; no more blaming the politicians.

Direct democracy brings to the voting booth the responsibility the voter already does in his or her personal and professional affairs. Most people are very responsible with their personal and professional affairs; they behave responsibly at work, they pay their mortgages and loans, they do so because they are directly responsible for the consequences if they do not. Direct democracy is like that, forces us to vote fully aware we are directly responsible for the results of our vote, not the politicians.

But for direct democracy to happen you have to move; you have to write, you have to demand, you might need to peacefully demonstrate.   You have to make direct democracy THE ISSUE, until politicians accept the switch, or a new party promotes it and gets a sufficient number of votes to force the changes in the laws and the constitution.

Aren’t the politicians supposed to be our servants? Why the servants of the people have more power than the people? I tell you why; because we do not fight to have “government by the people”.

Direct democracy arrived in Greece because of a crisis; the elites did not like it, even if the Greeks had left royalty and dictators behind centuries before. It also arrived in Switzerland against the will of elected politicians. I doubt your country will be different.

The current health crisis caused by the virus, and the economic crisis it created, can be a great opportunity to bring about direct democracy.

Direct democracy is not about radical “messianic”, “magical”, changes to bring perfect equality, perfect justice, perfect rights, and on and on. It is not about that because we know such radical “solutions” are often much worse than the problems. Direct democracy is about improving how society is managed by having voters directly decide issues and make changes.

Let us get going!

 

 

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